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Photography Question 
Ken Henry

Home Prints Versus Lab Prints

Are the new photo printers out-performing lab prints today? I may invest in one.
a. I sell enlargements from 8x12 to 20x30; b. My clients are architects, designers, and various contractors; c. My format is 35mm film with tilt-and-shift lenses. (For very critical photos, I use a 4x5,) I use Reala film. d. I can get scans up to 100mb at 300dpi plus.
So, if I print from an Epson 2200 or Canon i9900 and other comparable printers, 8x12 or 11x16's, will they look equal to or better than lab photos? Especially when they are mounted on Gatorboard and laminated?
In other words, would you be comfortable selling home prints to these very, very meticulous and demanding clients? hmmmm ...
Regards to you all, ken

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2/26/2005 7:42:49 PM

Diane Dupuis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/27/2003
  No, I wouldn't.

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2/27/2005 6:25:54 AM

Michael H. Cothran   I print and sell 24x36" prints from an Epson 7600 using their Ultrachrome inks, and matte paper. A 100mb scan will produce stunning prints.
BUT ... the printer will only produce a print as good as the file you send it. So you've got to know your way around PS, and understand color management well.
Michael H. Cothran
PS - And mine are also mounted on 3/4" Gatorboard, and laminated with a lustre luminant.

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2/27/2005 7:13:51 AM

Tony Sweet
Tony's Photo Courses:
2-Week Short Course: A Quick Start to Adding More 'Pop' to Your Images
  I've been selling prints made in my studio for years to very high-end clients. I use the Epson 2200 and 7600. One caveat, however: There are learning curves involved in using Photoshop, color calibration, color correction, sharpening your image, scanning technique. Also, the initial investment is steep. If money is available, and you have time to learn your hardware and software, you'll ultimately save money, and print production will be completely under your control.

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2/27/2005 11:35:06 AM

Steve Parrott
  I think the real answer is that it depends on the lab. If you want a real slap in the face of reality, arrange to visit a SERIOUS, PROFESSIONAL photo lab that does lots of digital processing. After you do, you will never again entertain the thought of doing your own prints for anything other than personal snap shot type use. The VERY large, EXPENSIVE Epson 7600 can do well, but as another poster stated, the buy in cost is HIGH, plus it requires a LOT of learning to get proper results. No basic, home ink jet is going to compete with a pro lab digital laser printer. My suggestion is to find a good lab and use them for your serious prints. I actually think it is cheaper in the long run. You don't have ink and paper costs, which can be substantial on the higher end home printers. Calibrate your monitor, and take your time learing to get a quality file prepared in PhotoShop, then allow the real printing pros to give you results you will likely never be able to achieve yourself. My 2 cents.

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3/1/2005 1:49:04 PM

Gregg    go to and check out their prices. They us a Fuji Frontier 370. You may be quite surprised.

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3/1/2005 3:17:41 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  Forget it. Though modern printers can at first look OK, in effect they are only "pretending" (even the expensive printers). "Ink" can never compare to "light". Nothing ... absolutely nothing beats real photo imaging, using digital diodes or traditional film using photo sensitive paper. I am a Graphic Designer and Photographer and can pick a print in 3 seconds done not using photo imaging (no matter how good the re-touching etc etc etc). For fussy clients (architects etc) don't even think about it.

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3/1/2005 11:07:06 PM

Anand S   Hi I would also like to sell my pictures they are mainly animals, landscapes and macro. I am not looking at making great money out of it just to keep my hobby alive. Please guide me how I should be doing this. My work is posted at Tho' the scan is not very clean

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3/3/2005 9:20:28 AM

Susan Bohanon
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2004
  My understanding has always been that prints printed at home have the image printed ON TOP of the paper. Where as a lab IMBEDS the image into the paper. Big difference for me.
I love my lab and I personally would not consider doing home lab work.
Of course, I don't have really expensive printer either.

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3/3/2005 10:28:35 AM

Steve Parrott
  You are correct Susan. Look at it this way, before the advent of digital photography, how may people developed their own film? Now all of a sudden, people with a digital camera think a home ink jet printer is going to equal a pro lab. Even an expensive, large format ink jet is still just spraying ink ONTO paper. That is just NOT going to compare with a laser printer actually EXPOSING true photographic paper. Ink jets are fine for personal, snapshot type use, even in larger sizes, but don't try to sell a home made ink jet print to a paying customer. You will soon have no customers left.

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3/3/2005 1:53:27 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  I halfway disagree with the statement and there is that much difference once everything is said and done about how much better pro lab prints are than prints made with a very high quality ink job. I have seen ink prints from some photographers who are totally digital and do their own printing. This is a portrait business mostly, and the prints I'm talking about are usually quite large at around twenty inches long. If somebody is paying the money for these inks and printers, I'm sure they know what they're doing and somebody isn't going to be stubborn enough to say, hey, you used ink and not photographic paper. Wouldn't you just increase DPI on the print? It's not like your eye can see the individual dots anyways.

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3/4/2005 9:33:04 PM

Steve Parrott
  Yes, you *can* get some nice prints from a home ink jet. I personally have a Canon 9900 with 8 individual ink tanks that can output up to 13 x 19 inches. With Canon Photo Paper Pro it can give some very nice results, so I am not totally condeming home printing. You may find it surprising, however, that you actually need a much higher resoultion, higher quality file to get a good home print than you need wiith a pro lab. It is not just a matter of incresing DPI. I use a 12 megapixal camera and still need to use a program such as Genuine Fractals or painstakinly upsize in small increments in PS to get a 300 DPI print at 13 x 19 inches. A pro lab with a laser printer does not require near as large a file size to produce a SMOOTH, NON PIXELATED print. Our local pro lab can make gorgeous, door sized prints from only a 4 megapixal file. The difference between a home ink jet print and a pro lab print is hard to put into words. The lab photo is just a look that is much more pleasing and "true to life" looking for lack of a better term. Remember, I'm talking a true, pro lab, not a one hour Wal Mart type of thing!

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3/6/2005 8:50:05 AM

Ken Henry   I am so honored to have all you world class photographers respond to my question. I am now finally able to respond to you all of my following results.

Over 100 each, 8 1/2 x 11" I am now printing from my new IP5000 Canon for a couple of architects from 35mm format at 18mb with 500dpi scanned from Reala negative film. It's nuts! And I have showed them comparisons from a pro lab.

It's all in the papers...
If it wasn't for Epson's "Premium Glossy Photo Paper" I would not have done it. This paper is like 'wet glass', smooth and extremely sharp details. I have tested all top pro papers from, in order of quality, Canon...HP...Kodak and IBM.

Why an IP5000? Being very detailed I was impressed with the specs of 1 picoliters and a 9600x2400 dpi. Plus it has been getting the highest ratings. I had no interest in printing larger prints. So I'll wait for Canon's new '9900' and Epson's new 2200.
I've already been getting better detailed and sharper 16x24" prints from a 7600 printer.

The Epson 800 with 1.5 picoliter printer was rated the next best printer.

With only your standard color managemnt correction, no enhancements on saturation, contrast, sharpener, etc., These prints look like slides.

But of course I will move cautiously ahead.

We never know what's good without studying and testing before we buy it.

regards, Ken

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4/3/2005 10:46:41 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Once again, different strokes for different folks.

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4/4/2005 8:26:43 AM

I'm a Photographer ( 30 plus years )
I have also been a color printer traditional for about 25 and B & W ).
I also teach Photography Traditional, and Digital, but currently only Digital.
I have been doing Digital Photography
since 1993.
It not only depends on the paper type or inkjet printer - but on the skill
of the Photographer/Printer.
With Inkjet printers made in the last 4 or 5 years - I believe you can get a better print if your skills are up to the task!
The Epson 2200 -7600 and 9600 are all
good printers.
And if your printing/Photoshop skills are good in many cases you can get a better print.
To prove this to some of my students -
I entered an 11 x 14 color print into
a local Fair contest - about 500 prints were entered that year.
The main catagories were Color, B & W, and Digital., With sub Cat's in each group.
I entered in the Nature Cat. - but on purpose did not say, Color or Digital
After 6 judges looked at the photos,
I was a winner, not one of the Judges realizes it was Digital print from an Epson 2200 - printed on Ilford smooth Pearl paper. For that matter neither did anyone else except for one of my best friends. Until all was done and over with. I told them. So can you get an Excellant print - Yes
if your skills are good!
PS My print was hung in the Color Div. - not the Digital.

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4/6/2005 8:27:40 PM

Ken Henry   EXACTLY......! I haven't tried Ilford smooth Pearl paper yet. Does it have that high gloss wet look?

I had no interest of doing any kind of pro-printing and also spending the money for large paper printers. Besides, Epson and Canon will have new and better? replacements for their 2200 and i9900, this year I hear.

I was still dubius of course of the quality of home printers, even though I had sharper, clearer and bolder color 16x24's printed on a 7600 versus a pro lab in Beverly Hills where you have 100 photographers per one capita. It was semi-gloss paper which I do not like. I wasn't convinced because I had no knowledge of the various papers.

Yes, you can razzle and dazzle your client with prints from photoshop. But the client is still going to pay $22.00 for that 8x12.

Bottom line is business. $150 per hour taking pictures plus materials or zerrrro $$$ per hour playing photo shop?
Besides, it's more efficient to hire a pro grahpic artist for any photo editing. What they can do in ten minutes you wish you could do in two hours.

Now, for my own artwork, I do the photoshoping.

Regarding those 100 plus photos I printed... The past two weeks were sixteen hour days. Lots of photoshop hours, no charge. And at 9600dpi, approx 15 minutes per print. Did I make any money? $2 per paper and ink, plus over 2 hundred 4x6's and ink for proofs before I run the enlargements. The clients still paid $22 per print. My real profit at $12 x 100 divided by 320 hours = $3.75 per hour. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Regards, Ken

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4/6/2005 10:30:58 PM

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